THE SAINT WHO WAS STUCK IN A BUCKET: The childhood of St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897)

Therese of Lisieux lived only twenty-four years, yet she became a mystic, a Doctor of the Church, and is one of our most beloved saints. Outwardly, her life seemed uneventful, but her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, shows a young woman who lived both in the real world of menial work and in the deeply spiritual realm. She believed that some people are called to heroic work or to be martyred, but most are called to the holiness of every day. Her ‘little way’ of living everything in the spirit of love was her answer for the rest of us.

Details of the child Therese are delightful for she was a precocious, spunky little girl. Yet her sincere spirituality at a young age also gives children much to ponder. Here is a children’s story about Therese as a child along, with suggestions of food, art project and prayer, to help children appreciate this young saint.


“Therese! Don’t swing on the arm of that chair!” warned her sister. “You’ll fall!’

Little Therese ignored her sister, and the nearby bucket of scrub water. Oops! The chair slipped and Therese fell backward, right into the bucket, bottom first. She was stuck! Her sisters came and pulled and tugged until the very wet Therese was back on her feet.

Therese’s four older sisters and their parents were used to Therese’s ways. They were patient when she kicked and screamed when she did not get her way. They smiled when she hugged her pet rabbit or shouting happily, running with their dog, Tom. They were delighted when she climbed up onto a lap to give a great big kiss. And they laughed when she danced as if she were a silly chicken.

Her family was very prayerful and Therese soon came to know Jesus’ love through them. When she was four, her mother found her sitting quietly behind a curtain, just thinking about God.

Once when the family traveled to the sea, Therese watched the sun setting. It seemed to be leaving a long path of its light sparkling on the water.

Therese thought, “That light is like Jesus’ love. It is like a path to heaven, where we will be with Jesus forever. I will never let my soul leave Jesus’ path of light.”

Therese did stay on that path by using what she called her ‘little way.’ Each time she had a job to do, like washing dishes, she remembered that God was with her, and she did the job for God. If someone hurt her feelings, she knew that God was near, so she forgave the other person because of God’s love. She explained, “I am only a very little soul, who can only offer very little things to our Lord.”

Through her little way, Therese became a saint whom many, many people love today.




Some sources say that St. Therese’ favorite food was éclairs. Serve them in her honor.


Therese is always associated with red roses, and her brown habit, so combine these colors for a table setting. Brown napkins and taper candles might be available with Thanksgiving items. Have roses as a centerpiece. Actual photos of Therese are readily available as are prayer cards and statues. Add one of these if possible.

Therese’s mother was a lace maker. With a nod to this fact, children can make a ‘nosegay’ as a remembrance of St. Therese with the following project.

For each child:

A paper lace doily

2” squares of red tissue paper, several per child

A small container of school glue (the top to a juice can or small yogurt container will work)

A pencil (need not be sharpened)

Place the blunt end of the pencil in the center of one sheet of tissue paper. Gather the paper around the pencil, so it looks like a flower petal. Dip this end of the pencil into the glue so the bottom of the ‘petal’ has a bit of glue on it. With the tissue still on the pencil, press this petal onto the center of the doily. Do this again, placing the new petal close the first. Continue to do this till the center of the doily is covered with red petals. With the lace edges still showing, this will look like small roses in a bouquet.


Dear St. Therese,

You were a child like we are. You played with your sisters and loved your pets too. You laughed and cried as all children do. But you also understood that Jesus loved you greatly. Help us to come to know Jesus’ love too! Amen.